Story at a glance
- 38-year-old Jessica Barraza is a production associate and works on the Tesla Model 3.
- She filed a lawsuit against Tesla alleging rampant sexual harassment at the company’s Fremont factory.
- Barraza said Tesla’s work environment was so hostile it triggered a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis that caused her to take a medical leave from work.
A Tesla factory worker alleged she spent years enduring sexual harassment by coworkers, and now she’s filed a rare lawsuit against the electric car marker.
38-year-old Jessica Barraza is a production associate and works on the Tesla Model 3. She spoke with The Washington Post and detailed a string of incidents she experienced while working for Tesla’s Fremont factory located within San Francisco’s Bay area. She told the Post that coworkers described her body as a “Coke bottle figure” and an “onion booty,” “fat ass,” and “fat ass titties.”
In addition to vulgar comments about her body, Barraza also said she was propositioned by a supervisory lead over text message and had coworkers inappropriately touch her while working, brushing up against her backside.
Barraza said after experiencing sexual harassment on the job for almost three years, “it robs your sense of security. It almost dehumanizes you.”
She told the Post that the near daily harassment and hostile work environment triggered anxiety, leading Barazza to take medical leave due to a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis.
Barraza decided to file suit in California Superior Court in Alameda County, and according to the Post the lawsuit describes “rampant sexual harassment at Tesla” and “nightmarish conditions.” The suit also describes Tesla’s factory floor as something which “more resembles a crude, archaic construction site or frat house than a cutting-edge company in the heart of the progressive San Francisco Bay area.”
Before filing suit, Barraza said she tried to go through Tesla HR, filing complaints in September and October explaining her experiences at work. Those complaints went unanswered, according to Barraza, and it’s unclear if Tesla acknowledged them internally.
Tesla requires employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements, which mandates that employee disputes be handled outside of court. However, Barraza’s attorneys told the Post that those agreements are “illegal and unenforceable.”
Workplace culture at Tesla is influenced from the very top, Barraza alleges, explaining how a joke tweet by CEO Elon Musk talked about starting a new university and naming it Texas Institute of Technology & Science, which would have the acronym TITS.
“That doesn’t set a good example for the factory — it almost gives it like an … ‘he’s tweeting about it, it has to be OK,'" Barraza told the Post. “It’s not fair to myself, to my family, to other women who are working there.”
Barraza’s lawsuit wouldn’t be Tesla’s first, as the company was recently ordered to pay nearly $137 million to Owen Diaz, an employee that was found to be subjected to racial harassment at the same Fremont factory. However, that employee was a contractor and not obligated to sign Tesla's arbitration agreement.
After the jury’s verdict sided with Diaz, the company posted a blog post detailing why it felt that the facts presented to the jury were wrong. It ended the lengthy post by saying, “while we strongly believe that these facts don’t justify the verdict reached by the jury in San Francisco, we do recognize that in 2015 and 2016 we were not perfect.”
So far Tesla has not publicly commented on Barraza’s lawsuit.
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